New York Farm Bureau is very appreciative of the quick work performed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and her staff to correct a policy interpretation it said could have cost New York apple and fruit growers tens of thousands of dollars.
The USDA's Risk Management Agency allows individual farmers to purchase crop insurance based on yields from previous years. To protect the integrity of the program, RMA monitors production trends that may indicate problems stemming from farm practices or the age of fruit trees. Typically, weather-related occurrences that affect production are removed from that equation. Earlier this month, Gillibrand's office was notified that RMA was failing to take into account last year's massive crop loss when a spring frost cut apple production in this state by more than half. The result was triggering an RMA formula that would have provided New York growers with significantly less crop insurance coverage, ranging from 15 to 35 percent less from the previous year. The Farm Bureau said this would have put growers at great risk of substantial financial loss this year if there is another major weather event.
New York Farm Bureau worked closely with crop insurance provider Crop Growers LLP, affiliated with Farm Credit East, to assess the situation and alert Gillibrand of the problem.
Within a few days, her office was able to get RMA to issue clarifying guidance to its regional office that will allow for the re-review of yield decisions, resulting in the anticipated reversal for dozens of New York fruit farmers who purchased crop insurance policies.
"New York Farm Bureau could not be more grateful to Sen. Gillibrand and her staff for their responsiveness on this issue. We certainly don't want to see another massive crop loss, but it is good to know a proper safety net is there if it should happen. The ability to protect our investment and what we grow from extreme weather conditions is absolutely necessary to have viable farms in this state that provide healthy, local food. This effort is a prime example of how working together can quickly resolve a problem for the state's farmers," said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau.
"New York farmers are among the hardest working members of our communities, and are dedicated to providing us with a healthy, sustainable food supply. Our farmers deserve the reliability of a crop insurance program that works fairly and effectively, especially in times of extreme weather and natural disaster. I am dedicated to ensuring that this critical program works well for our farmers, and will continue to push for the kinds of sensible solutions that we are announcing today," Gillibrand said.
"New York state fruit farmers have led the trend in adapting sound risk management plans that includes the Federal Crop Insurance Program. In 2012, New York state fruit producers insured over 53,000 acres with over $125 million of protection in force. Last year's weather-related events have resulted in claim payments paid back to the farm of over $43 million to date. Thanks to the effort of Sen. Gillibrand, NY Farm Bureau and NYS Ag & Markets, those risk management plans are well intact for the 2013 crop year," said Jeremy Forrett, Farm Credit East/Crop Growers LLP vice president.
"We are very happy with the outcome after the regional RMA office re-evaluated the crop insurance coverage we had purchased. Because of Sen. Gillibrand's involvement, our orchard's safety net quadrupled. RMA reinstated the proper yield coverage from 68 bushels to 270 bushels per acre, a more accurate number of apples based on what we produce in a typical year, and for that we sincerely thank Sen. Gillibrand and the team from New York Farm Bureau and Crop Growers who brought this issue to her attention," said Scott and Theresa DeLaurentis, owners of Bryant Farms in Hudson.